An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of June 28, 2015
Issued from Río Lagartos, Yucatán, MÉXICO

MICROSOFT & MY OLD VEW  BUG

This week immediately after a Windows update, my computer went haywire. That's why this Newsletter is much shorter than usual; I've spent the whole week trying to get things back in order, which finally was managed on Friday. It all got me started thinking about how my current lifestyle is dependent on computers and the Internet. It reminded me of what happened when my 1968 VW Beetle began dying back in the 1980s.

At that time technology was getting to the point where cars could no longer be repaired by folks like myself. I'd just spent a decade or so driving across the country in my Bug working as a freelance writer, carrying along a big toolbox and a greasy copy of John Muir's How to Keep Your VW Alive, For the Complete Idiot. The Bug was reaching the end of its line and all the replacements I could find already were so computerized and designed with expensive throw-away modules that I didn't want to fool with them. It was even getting so you couldn't roll down your window and rest your arm with your elbow sticking outside, and I didn't like that, either.

I solved the problem by changing my lifestyle. I stopped developing writing assignments in the US, abandoned the old Bug and began spending summers doing assignments in Europe, traveling on trains. In winters I went to tropical countries where I used buses. Between seasons my traveling inside the US was on Greyhound buses, which either carried me between my home base in Kentucky and Kennedy Airport in New York, or to the southern border where Mexico's excellent bus system began.

This change away from dependence on bossy US cars, traumatic at first with all its uncertainties, turned out to be a good move for me. Now I got more money for my articles and pictures, and it was much more interesting and enriching to move through various cultures. And it felt good to forget about car maintenance and car insurance.

So, back sometime in the 80s or so, North American society-in-general evolved to a point where I decided to opt out, and it proved to be a good move. This week it seemed to me that my growing dependence on computers, the Internet and a digital camera had returned me to a similar point -- to where I was vulnerable and helpless when things didn't go right, and where I wasn't spending enough time with my elbow sticking out the car-door's open window, with the wind streaming in.

This week, battling computer problems, the old abandon-ship feeling has been coming back. Until suddenly things started going right again this Friday morning, I'd about decided to end most or all of my Internet work, which has been extensive and continuous since about 1996.

But, Friday morning, the computer worked OK, and I could get together what you read above.

Still, at this writing my head space is like it was back in my old Bug chugging down the highway someplace with a writing assignment in my pocket -- but during the last days of that time when I was starting to fantasize about what it'd be like Eurailing from assignment to assignment and taking buses in tropical countries. I'm speaking metaphorically here, for I've had enough of Eurailing and tropical buses. There's a whole world of other options, though.

Who knows how it'll all work out? And, thanks to MicroSoft and its buggy updates for helping me see things more clearly this week.